by Rev. Diane Ury
National Ambassador for Holiness
It is critical that Christians be readers of books. Theology, history, biographies, relationship resources should all be part of what we regularly feed our minds. Maybe I’m unusual, maybe not. But I believe it’s nearly essential also to read fiction as a part of a holy life.
Paul repeatedly refers to the essence of Christianity being a mystery. The depths of the beauty of holiness cannot even begin to be approached without imagination. To behold God, to be beheld by God, is an encounter. In the still quiet of our hearts and minds, this occurs. When it does, we are transformed. Prayer is the making real in our spirits and minds what we “see” in God’s heart. Faith is clinging to what is unseen, and yet we know it.
Fiction provides the development of imaginative creativity. Reality is understood through story. God revealed Himself and the nature of everything else, including ourselves, through story. He wants to enter our story.
Fiction provides contexts to learn empathy which does not come naturally but can be developed through story. Entering into another person’s life and feeling their experience can cultivate the ability to care about someone besides ourselves.
Fiction can lift us out of difficult context into a new world that inspires courage, sacrifice, heroism, mercy and faithful kindness. Often, we meet characters who are quirky, irksome and difficult. We learn endurance and patience with these folks, perhaps realizing in fact we are not irritated, but irritate able. The Spirit convicts, then He creates mercy and grace in our attitudes.
To preachers who read fiction, I want to say, “Thank you for the allure, the fragrance, the beauty— for more than mere information.”
Different people’s responses to what occurred at the Asbury Revival in February 2023 were very telling. Where many flocked to meet the living God who had come to love and serve and heal those hungry for Him, others stood back with their arms crossed, demanding apologetics be taught at the altar, that people arise from prayer being able to get 100 percent scores on doctrine questions. Like Zechariah in Luke 1, they demanded certainty, where Mary offered herself to be beheld by her God and was filled with His Life.
Perhaps we wouldn’t be debating the full beauty of what God can do in our lives when He sanctifies us
entirely if we nurtured our imaginations so that His Word could fly on wind, and His Spirit could make our stony hearts tender, causing rivers of living water to flow out of them. His hand can reach into our leprosy and immediately cleanse us completely. Jesus’ blood can wash away our defilement. He can bear our sins in His body. He can create the world in a week, and He can bring people from death to life in a moment, filling us with perfect Love.
You don’t believe that? You haven’t experienced that? Curl up on a sofa and read Middlemarch, Jayber Crow, The Warden, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Dean’s Watch, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. The Bible is the source of all good story, because it reveals Reality. Every morning immerse yourself within it, the very Real Word of God. Yes, that’s what it certainly is. Every single word is True. And yes, you can hear His Voice.